Culture Scout at Buffer, Deborah Rippol
Deborah Rippol in Her Own Words
I’m a Culture Scout at Buffer and part of the People team. My role is to bring on new folks to the Buffer journey, with a focus on finding people that are as passionate about our values as we are and will contribute to our culture.
With a background in recruitment, law, and HR, I threw myself into the startup world five years ago when I moved to London and joined the non-profit organization Startup Weekend, to help grow the community around Europe for three amazing years. I then went on to work for a year at WeWork launching and managing several buildings in London. I now work at Buffer where I’m able to combine my love for our company culture & my passion for psychology and all things tech.
You can usually find me traveling to see friends around the world, in the South of France or exploring new hobbies (most recently cycling and doing a coding course).
Buffer + Deborah
How long have you worked with Buffer and what do you think helped you the most in landing your job with Buffer? — Halie Powell
I’ve been at Buffer for an incredible eight months! Wow, time flies 😊. I think that what was best for me was that I had been following the blog and the Buffer Journey for a while and felt very aligned with the Culture. I believe there’s always an element of luck, and I’m so grateful that there was a spot for me to explore a dedicated Hiring position at Buffer at that stage of the company!
What projects are you working on currently, as Culture Scout? — Ernestine Chua
Heya! Regarding projects, recently I’ve been mainly working on things related to our applicant journey and how it’s adapted to our needs / how helpful we are in a candidate’s journey (with us or in general in their career). To be more specific, at the moment I’m looking into potential mentoring programs that could build a connection with candidates that might not have enough experience at the moment, but also working on Outbound strategies and how our employer brand plays into that. 😊
Thinking Fast and Slow is one on my favorite books (by Daniel Kahneman) alongside Drive by Daniel H. Pink. They’re both very interesting and have helped me explore psychology from an organizational (business) and a motivational (personal) perspective
Recruitment at Buffer and Beyond
What advice would you give someone looking to work on a distributed team that has no experience working in that type of environment? — Alex Dixon
Great question! For me what feels the most important trait to have there is being quite autonomous with your work. If that’s something you feel is quite natural for you, then the rest is mainly how organized you can be. 😊
I’d say another advice is working on written communication and trying to identify some of the patterns that might be triggers for misunderstandings. I’ve had to work on that quite a lot myself. 😊
With the goal of improving the applicant journey, as well as defaulting to transparency, are you all exploring any potential ways of providing more specific feedback to candidates that are turned away after the application process? If so, what are some creative ideas you have around that? — Paul Gonzalez
You’re spot on that giving feedback plays a big role in transparency and improving the applicant’s journey. It’s been a bit tricky mainly due to the number of applications we get (still about 300/400 per position depending on the role). There’s also an aspect of not wanting to make any judgment about the person because we feel like a lot of it comes down to how Buffer does things, there’s no wrong or right there.
That said, having more people in the team has been awesome, and we’ve been able to respond a bit faster (still not fast enough, we’re continuously working on that!). I’m working on an article that will dig into the ‘How we hire’ a bit more; I’m hoping that it’ll help a few people too. Open to suggestions of course. 😊
Past the actual interview, what impresses you most about potential candidates? Do you look for any follow-up/thank you e-mail, or anything like that? Currently, job searching and would love to have input on someone from the other side on how to hold interest without being intrusive! — Erica Tafavoti
I believe this depends very much on the company culture of where you’re applying. My advice would be to know as much as possible about the company, more than really about the person you’re reaching out to. I’m often impressed by people that feel they had defined their criteria for a role and a company, and that try to find a match there. That usually shows in how specific some questions are for example, and follow-ups are great! Any nice and polite email is always appreciated, especially if it’s understanding and gracious. 😊
As an example, I’d say if you follow closely the company and see that they’ve launched a new product, sending a non-binding casual note congratulating the person you’ve been in touch with is always nice. 😊 Different from company to company (and person to person!).
Hey Deborah, thanks so much for doing this! This may not be a popular question, but what has your involvement been in the recent layoffs? Working in culture @ Buffer, how has that impacted the organization? Have you guys done anything to help mitigate the concerns of other employees? — Chris Keller
I’ve actually not quite been involved in the layoffs myself; I’m so grateful for the transparency that we’ve experienced there, though. I believe that in terms of culture, a lot has been done to ensure that everyone understands the ‘why’ and knows that we’ve had to make this decision so that we’d move forward with more confidence in our ability to grow Buffer sustainability.
Happy to answer any question you have there Chris Keller, I know those are tricky ones to ask!
In the Culture Lab podcast, and more broadly in some other writing, it seems as if Buffer has built a culture very conducive to millennials. How do you make sure you are attracting the best talent across generations, yet still stay true to your values? — Paul Gonzalez
From an inclusive perspective, we constantly ask ourselves the question of how do we appeal to everyone and not only to a certain category of people. I feel incredibly grateful that in particular Courtney Seiter is working on projects that help us be more inclusive. To me, working on the core of the environment we create, to make it one that is attractive for more generations is key. I think some of the perks and the remote aspect are what I feel are quite key to attract talents from everywhere and every generation. 😊
Then again, nothing’s perfect, and I’m sure there’s tons more we could be doing there Paul Gonzalez! I believe some of the training we’ve done to remove bias in our interviews has been awesome in helping with that too. 😊
Would love to hear more about removing bias in interviews! I interview folks sometimes and am sure I have these biases I don’t even know about, so even just a bit of self-awareness will be helpful! — Ernestine Chua
Oh, it’s been absolutely fascinating to work on trying to remove bias in our interviews! I think a good first step is to bring consistency in our interview process and the interviews themselves. 😊 We’ve defined some questions and what answers could look like, to have a spectrum to compare them too. We’ve removed questions that weren’t giving us any information and could insert any bias.
A good one there was that we used to start a conversation by asking people to tell us their story and figured that starting with that was actually a bit tricky because it’s not the most objective one to assess. There’s an awesome article I read recently that touches a little bit on that, if that’s of interest to anyone. 😊
"You never get a second chance to make a first impression" was the tagline for a Head & Shoulders shampoo ad campaign…www.wired.com
Do you have a good process for extracting the new hire’s valuable experience and folding it into the Buffer culture & processes? Or do find that it just happens organically because of the focus on hiring self-starters (entrepreneurial focus) & doers? (or maybe there’s some other outcome that I haven’t quite thought of 😊)
Any books or other resources you recommend on how to systematically get the full value from new hires, while still building a strong, unified culture (which Buffer seems to be one of the best at) is *greatly* appreciated! — Scott Garcia
That’s a really great question Scott Garcia! I definitely agree that it’s a bit difficult to navigate, especially with more senior roles. My gut feeling here is that for any roles, and whether it’s new or existing team members, it’s important to stay open to suggestions and willing to shift the direction of the boat. 😊
The bigger the boat, the more difficult is can be to turn things around and stay open to new processes. It’s probably a bit easy to say and more difficult to apply, but I feel like there’s really an element of the culture and our ‘no-ego doer’ value that’s been helpful for us there.
I’m not sure if you’ll find this helpful, or maybe you’ve read it already, but this book has been amazing for me there.
The one tip I’d give there (I don’t have much experience in the area of hiring more senior people either, so that’s just a hunch!) is to be as explicit from Day 1, or even from the interview process. Sometimes it’s easy to be scared of saying something you think might deter them from wanting to join, but it’s better to know that about key cultural aspect from the get-go. 😊
The Recruitment Industry
Is it possible to break into the recruitment scene without a background in HR? This is something that has been interesting to be because I enjoy connecting people. — Iskender Piyale-Sheard
Iskender Piyale-Sheard: really good question! I’ve studied HR and Labor law but then didn’t quite follow that path for some years. I feel like in a way, having studied was less key for me than my experience working in hiring in my teams during the years that followed. I’d suggest working area by area there: Recruitment, People Ops, Salaries, they are all interesting components and piled together can make a great start for a career in that field!
Thank you, Deborah Rippol, for joining us today and sharing so many insights! 😊
Deborah Rippol: Yes, those were *great* questions everyone! Thank you SO MUCH for having me here 😊
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